The first of two nights from the Tokyo Dome for Wrestle Kingdom 14 sees 40,055 fans in attendance. The night sees the first of Jushin Liger’s retirement matches, Hiromu Takahashi’s return to singles action and capped off with an IWGP Heavyweight Championship match between Kazuchika Okada and Kota Ibushi.
Naoki Sano, Shinjiro Otani, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, and Ryusuke Taguchi (with Kuniaki Kobayashi) def. Jushin Thunder Liger, Tatsumi Fujinami, The Great Sasuke, and Tiger Mask (with El Samurai) (Norio Honaga was the special guest referee) @ 8:52 via ‘Dodon’ – ***
Night 1 of Wrestle Kingdom 14 kicks off with the first of 2 of Jushin Thunder Liger’s retirement matches. The emotion was evident from everyone during the entrances, specifically Liger’s. The emotion was definitely the most memorable part of this match. As for the match it was better than it had any right to be. Naoki Sano hit a tope suicida in the opening few minutes, Great Sasuke missed a big swanton bomb off the top rope and Jushin Thunder Liger hit a perfect frankensteiner from the second rope.
Tatsumi Fujinami’s hot tag got a loud reception as he hits multiple dragon screws. However, in the end, it would come down to Taguchi and Liger where Taguchi would (arguably in surprising mannor) beat Liger with the Dodon. After the match, Liger shook everyone’s hand and all participants stood in the ring, arms raised and emotions running high following Liger’s penultimate match. A simple match but perfect for it’s purpose.
Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, and El Desperado) def. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Sanada, Evil, Shingo Takagi, and Bushi) @ 8:39 via Omaplata armbar – ***1/4
The match starts with a cheap attack from Suzuki-gun. There’s lots of brawling on the outside but the match picks up when Takagi gets the hot tag and runs through multiple Suzuki-gun members. Taichi and Takagi have a great back and forth with strong lariats from Shingo and stiff kicks from Taichi. SANADA and Zack Sabre Jr. have a great technical exchange, hyping their British Heavyweight Championship match for Night 2.
In the end, Zack Sabre jr. submits Bushi with Omaplata-style crossface, using his free leg to wrench back on Bushi’s free arm. Sabre maintains the submission after the bell rings, prompting SANADA to break up the submission and lock in Skull End on Zack Sabre Jr.. Suzuki-gun flee and SANADA and Sabre Jr. stare down ahead of their title match. Effective in building towards that match and allowing everyone to have a time to shine on the grand stage.
Chaos (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, and Yoshi-Hashi) def. Bullet Club (Kenta, Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi, and Chase Owens) (with Pieter) @ 8:17 via GTR
The match starts with a loveable comedy moment with Yano telling his Chaos partners that he is starting off the match until he turns around and is met by Bad Luck Fale. Bullet Club largely dominate the opening portion of the match and nothing massively noteworthy happens. Once Goto and KENTA tag in, things pick up with Goto dropping KENTA with a big lariat. Both men go for their signature moves until KENTA nails a DDT and tags out. The rest of the field clears out, including a huge suplex from Ishii to Fale. Goto hits an Ushigoroshi and a GTR to Yujiro Takahashi to end the match.
FinJuice (Juice Robinson and David Finlay) def. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) (c) (with Jado) @ 13:25 via Sliced Bread – ***1/2
FinJuice start by attacking G.O.D during their entrance on the ramp. Tanga Loa hits a back body drop to Juice on the ramp and G.O.D brings Juice back to the ring to dominate the early portion of the match. Juice makes the tag to Finlay for the hot tag but he soon gets cut off, building to another hot tag with Juice getting in the ring. Juice hits a couple corner lariats and cannonballs to G.O.D. Finaly goes for a superplex but gets cut off and nailed with a powerbomb by Tanga Loa into a diving splash from Tama Tonga.
A Magic Killer to Finlay soon follows but Juice breaks up the pin. G.O.D nail a second Magic Killer, this time on Juice. The champions go for their signature avalanche powerbomb put Finaly counters with an avalanche frankensteiner. The Gun Stun from Tama is countered into roll up. Tama kicks out and Finlay flies into a kendo stick shot from Jado into a roll up by Tama for near fall. FinJuice get the offence back with a Left Hand of God and a Pulp Friction on Tanga Loa. A second Left Hand of God onto Tama Tonga and a sliced bread by Finlay gets the win for FinJuice. A fun match with a unique start and an exciting closing stretch which adds to the possibility of Juice walking out of Night 2 as a double champion.
Jon Moxley def. Lance Archer (c) @ 14:26 by knockout via Death Rider through two tables – ****
Before Moxley even enters the ring during his entrance, he grabs multiple chairs from under ring and throws them into the ring. Archer’s entrance involves coming out with 2 trash can lids. The match starts fast as expected with a jump start from Moxley. They brawl to the outside and soon re-enter the ring with Moxley grabbing a kendo stick. Moxley jumps off the top rope over Archer and gets a chair launched into his face.
Archer looks for the Derailer (a pounce) but is intercepted mid-run with a trash can lid launched into his head. This is followed by a suplex onto two chairs set up facing each other with trash can lid resting across the two chairs. Moxley follows with a Regal Knee. Archer fights back with a chokeslam onto the apron and a chokeslam off the apron to a young lion on to Moxley. Archer hits a huge dive over the top rope onto Moxley and multiple young lions.
Back in the ring, Archer hits the Blackout onto four chairs set up in the ring but Moxley beats the 10 count. EBD Claw slam onto chairs. Moxley counters a chokeslam with a double arm DDT but Archer beats the 10 count. A unique version of Archer’s EBD Claw almost wins him the match as he uses a plastic bag to smother Moxley. Archer sets up 2 tables on the outside and attempts the Blackout off the apron through the tables. Moxley fights out and nails a Death Rider off the apron through the two tables to retain. An incredibly fun match and a nice change of pace on what is largely a pure wrestling show.
Hiromu Takahashi def. Will Ospreay (c) @ 24:33 via High-angle sitout Time Bomb – *****
Both Takahashi and Ospreay’s attires are Wrestle Kingdom worthy, the later bringing out his signature sword for the occassion. The match has a slower start than their previous encounters at first but a slap from Ospreay ignites the fast pace. Hiromu goes for the sunset flip powerbomb to the outside but Ospreay blocks and looks for a hurricanrana but that too is countered into an apron powerbomb. Ospreay gets the upperhand later on with a scary double stomp to the neck followed by a draping DDT. Ospreay’s targeting of Hiromu’s neck becomes a key factor throughout the match.
An incredible sequence from the two starts with a sasuke special to the outside which Hiromu sidesteps and goes for a german suplex but is countered as Ospreay lands on his feet. Ospreay charges into an overhead belly to belly suplex from Hiromu into the apron but Ospreay avoid and rolls right back through the ropes into ring and nails the sasuke special on the second attempt. A sickening springboard double stomp onto the apron is followed with diving dropkick to the back of Hiromu’s head. The Hidden Blade is avoided simply by Hiromu collapsing.
An attempt at an avalanche electric chair driver from Ospreay is countered into an avalanche victory roll. Later, Ospreay hits a variation of Shingo Takagi’s Made in Japan, Hiromu’s fellow Los Ingobernable stablemate. Thi is followed with a shooting star press to back and later an Oscutter for a great near fall. The Hidden Blade is once again countered and Hiromu hits a pop up powerbomb. Ospreay’s classic float-over into a powerbomb is countered with a canadian destroyer by Hiromu.
Ospreay later hits a spanish fly and nails the Hidden Blade, the same move a year earlier at Wrestle Kingdom led to his victory over Kota Ibushi. However, unlike Ibushi, Hiromu counters the Storm Breaker with a sunset flip powerbomb. Hiromu nails the Time Bomb but Ospreay kicks out. Takahashi then debuts a new finisher, a variant of the Time Bomb but more of a high angle sitout tombstone variation. This gives Hiromu the win. An excellent match with an incredible story and a perfect ending.
Tetsuya Naito def. Jay White (c) (with Gedo) @ 33:54 via Destino – ***3/4
The match begins as expected with Jay White leaving the ring, avoiding Naito goes after Gedo, promting White towards Naito which allows Naito to get the advantage. Outside interference from Gedo allows White to get the advantage and later Gedo hits Naito’s leg with a steel chair against the ring post. The rest of the match is rather slow with White attacking the leg. Naito makes a comeback with a diving hurricanrana off the second rope. White counters Naito’s flying forearm multiple times until eventually Naito hits it.
White hits a big saito suplex over the top rope with Naito’s back bouncing off the ring apron. White locks in the formely named Tanahashi Tap Out but Naito gets to the ropes. White later pushes Naito into Red Shoes and Gedo enters the ring with a chair. Naito takes out Gedo but White nails a low. Naito gets the advantage back with a dragon suplex. Gedo once again enter the ring but Naito kick’s Gedo low, removing him from the rest of the match. White launches a chair into Naito’s face.
This is followed with two sleeper suplexes, the later Naito gets back up from and hits a running Destino out of nowhere. A reverse rana into a second Destino gets a near fall on White. A few more counters follow until eventually Naito hits Valentia and a final Destino to win. A satisfying result but this match was long, quite slow in parts and was slightly harmed by having to follow and incredibly fast paced junior title match.
Kazuchika Okada (c) def. Kota Ibushi @ 39:10 via Rainmaker – *****+
Ibushi and Okada’s entrances feel incredibly special, especially the later’s who’s extravagant Wrestle Kingdom attires hit new levels with an insane video before his official entrance and a glow in the dark attire. As for the match, it starts slow and technical until Ibushi hits a standing moonsault. Okada gets the advantage back, hitting 3 consequtive DDT’s, the second being a draping DDT off the guardrail. Okada hits his classic running crossbody over the rail and the diving elbow drop. A backflip kick from Ibushi is caught into a tombstone, reversed into Ibushi’s own cradle variation of the tombstone.
The match starts hitting NJPW main event levels when Ibushi’s face turns to the classic emotionless state. Powering through uppercuts, forearms and a no sell of a John Woo dropkick, Ibushi nails Okada with palm strikes and closed fists, receiving boos from the crowd. Ibushi attempts a deadlift german suplex from the apron. Okada counters into a tombstone positon onto the apron and after a few counters back and forth, Okada hits the tombstone on the apron. Ibushi just breaks the count, leading to Okada targeting the neck further with a reverse neckbreaker and Heavy Rain. Ibushi nails a huge lariat followed by the deadlift german suplex from the apron, folding Okada on his neck. Okada later hits the spinning tombstone, the prelude to the Rainmaker but Ibushi counters with a lariat of his own. Ibushi nails a Kamigoye but only gets a 2 count.
Just like their G1 Climax meeting, Ibushi looks to follow up with a second but Okada counters with a jumping dropkick. After more back and forth, Ibushi calls back to his past with a Phoenix Splash which Okada avoids, follows with a discus Rainmaker followed by the traditional for an amazing near fall. Okada grabs the wrist and nails another 2 Rainmaker’s. A final Rainmaker is countered by Ibushi with a roundhouse kick and a running jumping knee strike, almost V-Trigger-esque. A possible match ending Kamigoye is countered with a sitout tombstone, the move Okada debuted against SANADA at King of Pro-Wrestling, and a final Rainmaker ends an incredible main event.
Arguably the best Wrestle Kingdom main event ever with a closing stretch that could parallel or exceed the levels of Okada vs Omega from years previous. Of course the cherry on the top means that Okada will now face Tetsuya Naito in a champion vs champion winner take all match in a rematch from Wrestle Kingdom 8 (6 years prior) and Wrestle Kingdom 12 (2 years prior)
A sensational night 1 of Wrestle Kingdom, action varying from great tag wrestling, fast paced junior action, a hardcore deathmatch and a classic NJPW main event to close the show. Night 2 looks incredibly promising and has a lot to live up to following a stellar night 1.
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